How to surf the Great Lakes

Surfing

While many are surprised to learn you can surf on the Great Lakes, more and more people are getting into it. Sure it isn’t Malibu, and you won’t get barrelled for days, but surfing is surfing—it’s fun no matter where you are or what kind of waves you’re riding.

Get schooled

If you’ve never surfed before, you should consider taking a lesson. While it’s not the easiest thing to do in Ontario, since weather is a major contributor to good waves, Mike Sandusky at surfontario.ca has been teaching in the province since 2002 and has a pretty good system worked out: If you sign up for lessons, you’ll get a 24-hour notice telling you where to be and when. He teaches lessons primarily at Ashbridges Bay and Bond Head on Lake Ontario, Wyldewood Beach and Port Stanley on Lake Eerie, and around Bayfield and Kincardine on Lake Huron.

Watch the weather

Few people watch the weather the way surfers do, and the really dedicated guys have jobs they can abandon at the first sign of waves. While we can’t all be so hardcore about it, no matter who you are, you need to pay attention to the forecast to get some surf days in. A strong onshore wind needs to blow for at least 18 to 24 hours before waves can really develop on the Great Lakes. The National Data Buoy Center provides real-time buoy readings for the Great Lakes and windfinder.com will allow you to track the wind. Of course there are apps for these things as well, so you can keep track on your way to the break. If this all sounds like too much work for you, then just stay active in the forums on sites like originsurf.ca. You’ll see a spike in activity when the waves are gathering, then just follow the clues to find out where they are.

Hit the breaks

The Great Lakes have more than 17,000 kilometres of shoreline, meaning there is lots of opportunity to find surf breaks. But surfers are a cagey bunch: they don’t love sharing locations with everyone, so they can save spots and waves for themselves. It also means giving you a list of breaks right here a serious faux pas. A couple of the well-known spots are definitely Ashbridges Bay in Toronto and Beachway Park in Burlington. Both spots have been mainstays of the Ontario surf scene for years. However, with a little research on sites like originsurf.ca and talking to people at surf shops, you will soon be on your way to finding more waves.

Gear up

If you’re looking to buy gear, then Boardsports and Silent Sports are the biggest surf retailers in Ontario for sure. They’ll also be able to give you great advice on board size, shape and design. And they can order stuff in for you. Again, sites dedicated to the Great Lakes surf scene are worth checking out. They will offer opportunities to buy used equipment.

While Ontario’s breaks rarely offer perfect waves, once you’re up and surfing, addiction may set in. If you find yourself suiting up in a 7mm wet suit in -10°C next November, it’s official. And if any of this article helped get you there, you’re welcome.